Saluting the women who helped conquer space

As she watched the lunar module descend to the surface, Ann Maybury was surrounded by her three children. She knew it was an important moment, so she woke them up to watch Neil Armstrong step onto the moon.

Maybury said she felt a sense of overwhelming pride, knowing that she had helped put those men on the moon.

Fifteen years later, she would tell the women working for her that when their project was complete, they should feel that same sense of pride.

When that project, the Hubble Space Telescope, began broadcasting its first images in 1990, Maybury called it the proudest moment of her life.

Her accomplishments have recently seen her included in "The Women of Apollo" by Robyn C. Friend. The children's book chronicles the lives of four women who worked on the space program.

Now, the 69-year-old Fernley resident has a new project, helping the next generation of women do something she never could, reach the stars.

"I'd have loved to go to the moon, but it wasn't possible. But If I could, I'd go to the moon on the way to Mars," she said.

She said her goal is to show what can be accomplished with science.

"Young ladies don't seem to think they can do science or math," Maybury said. "They think engineering is kind of a dull science. That engineers lack creativity, which just isn't true.

"If that were true, we never could have gone to the moon."

Maybury spends her time talking to schoolchildren about her life, her jobs and how if she can do it, so can they. She recently spoke to fifth-grade girls at Empire Elementary School.

"I moved 42 times before I was 18. Girls didn't go to college in my background," Maybury said. "Because I prepared myself, the door opened and I went through it. I didn't realize how wonderful that door would be."

Maybury said her fascination with space started when she was a child, indulging in science-fiction novels about traveling to distant worlds.

She vividly remembers her junior prom night, but not because of the dance.

"I ran outside in my prom dress and my stockings, with my mom in tow, to see Sputnik. It was a little itty-bitty light in the sky and I was lucky to get to see it, but that was a big deal," Maybury said.

After she graduated college with a degree in science, her first job was for TRW, working on the "velocity to be gained" program for NASA. Her assignment was to figure out what velocity was needed to put a man into orbit, correct it and send him to the moon."

After the birth of her first child in 1963, Maybury left the Apollo program, more than four years before the launch of Apollo 1. While staying home to raise her three children, she also earned a master's degree in mathematics.

Her fascination with space continued when she returned to work, and in 1980 she was appointed as a project manager for the computer systems of the space telescope.

"We wrote the program that allows images from Hubble to be viewable by your television screen," Maybury said. "I got to meet with every preeminent astronomer in the world for that project."

During the Hubble project, Maybury was reunited with Judith Love Cohen, who also worked on Apollo and is in the book.

"We worked in different departments on Apollo and then really met working on Hubble. I loved her creativity and her drive," Cohen said.

Both Cohen and Maybury said they hope the book echoes the message they are hoping to teach young girls, like the ones at Empire Elementary.

"The choices you are making right now will determine whether you are able to walk through the doors that may open for you," Maybury told the girls.

• Contact reporter Jarid Shipley at jshipley@ or 881-1217.

Apollo timeline

• Jan, 27, 1967 - Fire breaks out in the command module of Apollo 204 while still on the launch pad, resulting in the death of Virgil I. Grissom, Edward H. White and Roger B. Chaffee. The mission would later be renamed Apollo 1.

• November 1967 - The first Saturn V rocket launch is scheduled and designated Apollo 4. No missions were ever named Apollo 2 or 3.

• Oct. 11, 1968 - Apollo 7 is launched and broadcasts the first live television transmission from a manned spacecraft.

• Dec. 21-27, 1968 - Apollo 8 broadcasts television images and still photos to the country on Christmas Eve and become the first flight to orbit the moon.

• March 3-13, 1969 - Apollo 9, nicknamed Gumdrop and Spider, orbits the earth 152 times and is the first flight of the lunar module.

• May 18-26, 1969 - Apollo 10, nicknamed Charlie Brown and Snoopy, serves as a dress rehearsal for the moon landing. The lunar module was taken within 50,000 feet of the lunar surface and broadcast the first live color images from space.

• July 20, 1969 - Apollo 11 lunar module, nicknamed Eagle, lands on the lunar surface. The module remains on the moon for about 21 hours and collects 44 pounds of materials from the lunar surface.

• Nov. 14-24, 1969 - Apollo 12, nicknamed Yankee Clipper and Intrepid, lands at the Ocean of Storms and remains on the moon's surface for 31 hours and collects 75 pounds of materials.

• April 11-17, 1970 - Apollo 13, nicknamed Odyssey and Aquarius, is forced to abort a lunar landing after an oxygen tank ruptured.

• 1971-72 - Apollo 14-16 missions all successfully land on various areas of the lunar surface including the Hadley-Apennine region, Descartes Highlands and Fra Mauro.

• Dec. 7-19, 1972 - Apollo 17, crewed by Eugene A. Cernan, Ronald B. Evans and Harrison H. Schmitt become the last lunar landing mission. Schmitt, a geologist, becomes the first scientist-astronaut to land on the lunar surface.


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